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April 24, 2014

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Jury visits garage where Allainna McClain was found strangled

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Allainna McClain

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Clifford McClain

A judge presiding over a murder trial Tuesday allowed the jury to visit the scene where the victim's body was found.

District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt ordered the 14-member jury not to discuss the case, what they saw or to talk with attorneys, court marshals or herself during the trip from the Regional Justice Center to a home on the valley's west side on Tuesday.

Jurors had to surrender their cell phones for the duration of the trip.

Jurors were allowed a few moments to enter the garage where 24-year-old nursing student Allainna McClain was found dead on Feb. 17, 2008. The home, near Charleston Boulevard and Fort Apache Road, belonged to her mother-in-law Melody Nelson, who found McClain and called 911.

The Clark County Coroner's Office performed the autopsy the following morning and ruled her death a homicide due to asphyxiation.

Clifford McClain, Nelson's son, was charged with murder and two counts of battery. Clifford and Allainna McClain divorced in 2004 and have two children, ages 4 and 2.

Defense attorney Michael Schwarz said the photographs and dimensions recorded by crime scene analysts do not depict the size of the garage, which will play a part in his client's defense.

"Unless you walk into the garage, you don't have a sense of how tiny it is," he said.

Leavitt stressed that whatever jurors would see would not be considered evidence, only that it could help them to understand better the photos and drawings already submitted as evidence.

Prosecutors visited the garage on Friday and agreed with Schwarz that it was in the same condition as the day Allainna McClain died.

Deputy District Attorneys Phillip Smith and Susan Benedict also introduced video testimony Allainna McClain gave in September 2007 in which she detailed prior incidents when Clifford McClain allegedly punched and choked her.

The prosecution also played Nelson's 911 call in which she described her son, who was in the house when she found Allainna, as "out of it" and "catatonic."

The defense is expected to begin presenting its case later this week.

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